Reiki for depression and anxiety

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Apr 3:(4):CD006833. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006833.pub2.


Background: Anxiety and depression affect many people. Treatments do not have complete success and often require people to take drugs for long periods of time. Many people look for other treatments that may help. One of those is Reiki, a 2500 year old treatment described as a vibrational or subtle energy therapy, and is most commonly facilitated by light touch on or above the body. There have been reports of Reiki alleviating anxiety and depression, but no specific systematic review.

Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of Reiki for treating anxiety and depression in people aged 16 and over.

Search methods: Search of the Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL - all years), the Cochrane Depression, Anxiety and Neurosis Review Group's Specialised Register (CCDANCTR - all years), EMBASE, (1974 to November 2014), MEDLINE (1950 to November 2014), PsycINFO (1967 to November 2014) and AMED (1985 to November 2014). Additional searches were carried out on the World Health Organization Trials Portal (ICTRP) together with to identify any ongoing or unpublished studies. All searches were up to date as of 4 November 2014.

Selection criteria: Randomised trials in adults with anxiety or depression or both, with at least one arm treated with Reiki delivered by a trained Reiki practitioner.

Data collection and analysis: The two authors independently decided on inclusion/exclusion of studies and extracted data. A prior analysis plan had been specified but was not needed as the data were too sparse.

Main results: We found three studies for inclusion in the review. One recruited males with a biopsy-proven diagnosis of non-metastatic prostate cancer who were not receiving chemotherapy and had elected to receive external-beam radiation therapy; the second study recruited community-living participants who were aged 55 years and older; the third study recruited university students.These studies included subgroups with anxiety and depression as defined by symptom scores and provided data separately for those subgroups. As this included only 25 people with anxiety and 17 with depression and 20 more with either anxiety or depression, but which was not specified, the results could only be reported narratively. They show no evidence that Reiki is either beneficial or harmful in this population. The risk of bias for the included studies was generally rated as unclear or high for most domains, which reduces the certainty of the evidence.

Authors' conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to say whether or not Reiki is useful for people over 16 years of age with anxiety or depression or both.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / psychology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Therapeutic Touch / methods*